20 Painfully Embarrassing Prom Songs (You Secretly Love)
2021 is not a good year from proms. The only year it beats out is 2020, an even more pandemic year than this one. But a fair chunk of our readership is past prom age, so we asked them to share their musical memories with us. Not the happy memories, of course. Just the songs that now make them cringe and blush.
Hinder - “Lips Of An Angel”
Stephanie W. does not consider this much of a love song. "The guy is literally telling his ex that he wants to cheat on his current girlfriend with the ex-girlfriend," she says. "No, he wasn't breaking up with the current one to get back with the former one, he wanted them both. And people think it's a romantic song!"
Journey - "Faithfully"
"My prom date (and boyfriend at the time) dedicated Journey's 'Faithfully' to me," says Lynda R. "I later found out he had been cheating on me with my then best friend." Not that the night was a total loss. She also remembers the prom, "playing 'Mony Mony' by Billy Idol and a bunch of people chanting some inappropriate things."
Jeffrey Osborne - "We're Going All The Way"
Other readers have had their own issues with fidelity. Ken S. mentions “We're Going All the Way” by Jeffrey Osborne, saying, "My prom date ditched me to do just that with an ex-boyfriend." Hey, we bet the date and her ex considered this a very romantic reunion.
Joe Cocker And Jennifer Warnes - "Up Where We Belong"
Kris L. picks Styx's "The Best of Times" and "Up Where We Belong." "Can confirm. Ugh," he says, enigmatically. If you, like us, know the song only from seeing that one scene from An Officer and a Gentleman constantly reenacted and parodied, you have to picture dozens of Kris's classmates attempting to pick up their dates, and then stumbling and collapsing.
The Police - "Every Breath You Take"
"Because a song about stalking is perfect for a high school prom," says Megan L. Though, notes Nathan E., “It's still better than the teacher-student relationship of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' by The Police.”
Alphaville - "Forever Young"
To explain his pick, Conrad C. just says, "I mean have you ever seen these guys!!!" We're not sure how the band's look should have made his prom embarrassing, unless they performed the song in person, so we can only assume that Conrad modeled his personal style after Alphaville and now regrets it. Michael L. offers a second reason the song might have been awkward: "It's about nuclear war bringing about the end of the world. Romantic."
Led Zeppelin - “Stairway To Heaven”
Huh, why would anyone be embarrassed about this song? Ken's C.'s answer is simple: "'Stairway to Heaven' is eight minutes long." Which might make for an awkward dance under the best of circumstances, but having to do it while a teenager and sober had to be quite a challenge.
Lionel Richie - "Say You, Say Me"
When it comes to dance challenges, Ken O. says he has a song that's worse than "Stairway," if only marginally so. "Nothing more awkward than grabbing a girl or guy to start slow dancing," he says, "only to have to awkwardly transition when the song speeds up halfway through." Skip to 2:45 in the video below to suffer through it yourself. The transition back to slow, 30 seconds later, had to be even harder.
Oasis - "Champagne Supernova"
"My brother is senior class advisor at the high school he teaches at," says Joe C. "Back in the '90s, he had to nix Oasis's 'Champagne Supernova' as a prom song, explaining to the prom committee that he could not approve a song with the repeated refrain of 'where were you while we were getting high?'"
Snow Patrol - “Chasing Cars”
"At my prom," says Renee E., "it was the nauseatingly overplayed 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol, which coincidentally would end up being the centerpiece of the unintentionally hilarious musical episode on Grey's Anatomy a few years later." We're embedding the official video below, but you're welcome to also watch the Grey's Anatomy clip, without context.
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz - "Get Low"
Quite a few readers cringe at the memory of playing this particular song in an academic setting. Nathan B. says he doesn't even know the song's name, but he remembers the relevant lyrics, almost accurately: "That Lil Jon song that went 'to the window to the wall, till the sweat drips from my balls." Says Jeremy L, "A sea of horny white teenagers were grinding on each other as the adult chaperones either tried to stop it from happening, or avoided the situation best they could." Scarlett B. hears that story and laughs, wondering just what "avoided the situation best they could" left the teachers doing.
Ginuwine - “Pony”
And what could be worse than students dancing dirty and teachers trying to separate them? How about teachers getting the party started? "In high school, one of my teachers requested 'Pony' by Ginuwine," says Blake S. "What made it awkward was a teacher requesting a song meant to elicit grinding."
Eve 6 - "Here's To The Night"
Says Doug W., "The school's administration learned too late that it's about a one-night stand." Years later, someone interviewed Eve 6 about the song being frequently played at proms and graduations. The band said this was funny, likening it to another often misinterpreted song: "Good Riddance" by Green Day.
Green Day - "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)"
"All these idiots are out there dancing to it, telling their S.O. how they'll love them forever," recalls Ian J. "When it's literally about being bitter over a breakup even as you try not to be."
Kenny Nolan - "I Like Dreamin'"
Eric W. wins this week's award for most senior reader, telling us about his prom from 1977. "The finalists were '
Slayer - "South Of Heaven"
This is what Troy V. came up with when he heard our prompt. But then, after thinking about it a little more, he said, "Oh crap. I forgot the DJ said he didn't have it." Uh, judging by how well he remembers his prom, sounds like Troy was under the influence of a little "school spirit" that night.
Cheap Trick - "The Flame"
"It was a generic, forgettable, schlocky power ballad at the time," says Michael I., "and it has aged with the grace of a bottle of cheap wine in a warm cellar. A bleak moment for Gen X, probably why we turned to grunge and pop-punk a few years later, to offset the cringeworthy memories of life in the late '80s."
Inner Circle - "Sweat (A La La La La Long)"
"It has a great reggae beat and was really popular at school dances," says Andy C. But "once you look at the lyrics, you get an idea what the song is ACTUALLY about, and that should be after prom not during it!" We guess he means sex -- though, if you're going to be embarrassed over every song about sex, that doesn't leave a whole lot of songs available for your prom set list. We don't know if there's anything extra dirty about this song. Unless there's some meaning we never realized behind the line “looking in your big brown eyes."
Dave Matthews Band - "Crash Into Me"
The best story we received comes to us from Dave B. "Our prom committee decided that not only would 'Crash' by Dave Matthews be a good theme song," he tells us, "but that a fake car should be crashing through a wall. This was the same year that we'd lost students to drunk driving accidents. Tone deaf would've been an improvement." Another reader, John V., tries to put a positive spin on this, asking Dave, "But did the girls hike up their skirts? And show their world to you?"
No Prom, No Embarrassment
Abraham has no song to offer us. "Skipped mine," he says. "Didn't miss a thing."